Which custom Dad's Hat Rye is better?

When you do something awesome, people are bound to want to copy you. Sincerest form of flattery, right? So when Jeff Benjamin of the Vetri Family said he was inspired by my custom Dad’s Hat Rye to create one of his own, I was all for it.

But when he started claiming that his Amis Special Reserve whiskey tasted better than mine, well, that’s when I took issue.

Mine is clearly the superior product, I argued, because the Danya Blend rye is just that — a blend. Along with Dad’s Hat cofounders John Cooper and Herman Mihalich, I tasted samples from nearly a dozen different barrels, then carefully considered which two would be the most complementary when matched together. I created something entirely new.

In contrast, the Amis rye is single-barrel. When Benjamin visited the Bristol, Pa. distillery, all he did was choose one single flavor profile from an assortment already in existence. Easier, but also not as delicious, I guessed.

And after sampling the Vetri Dad’s Hat and mine side-by-side last week, I can tell you I was right. In my own mind, anyway — Jeff still says his is better.

Yeah, we obviously need some kind of impartial judge to help decide. So we’re posing the question at a special whiskey dinner.

Held Tuesday, July 18, at Bar Amis in the Navy Yard, the event will start with a taste of each rye, neat. Glasses will be marked either A or B, and guests will vote on which they like better. The evening continues with four courses from chef de cuisine Jared Frazer, each paired with two different cocktails — one made with Danya Blend and one with Amis rye.

At the end of the meal, we’ll tally up the votes and assess audience comments, and announce which one came out on top.

Of course, after working with the Bar Amis staff to create the pairings, I’m convinced there really won’t be any losers that night. I’ve been to and covered plenty of cocktail dinners, but being involved in the planning of one was an eye-opener.

Good chefs and bartenders, I realized, rely on a vast catalogue of stored knowledge — about flavors, ingredients, compatibilities and process — to creatively come up with new ideas on the fly.

For example, after bartender Anwar Morgan and I both decided one of our cocktails would have apple in it, Frazer came up with the idea to make a salad with cider-whiskey dressing. Another face-off featured drinks made with Yards IPA and Amis house ginger beer, so Frazer’s using both those in a sauce for the accompanying course. For the finale, he’s planning to take each of our dessert cocktails and soak miniature French financier cakes in them, then serve them as a pair — two chances for my blend to outshine Benjamin’s!

Check out the full menu below, and pick up your tickets here ($85 per person). May the best whiskey win.

Bartender Anwar Morgan, chef de cuisine Jared Frazer, Bar Amis beverage director Jordan Stalsworth and Vetri Family beverage director Steve Wildy discuss details for the dinner Credit: Danya Henninger / Billy Penn

Battle of the Dad’s Hat Rye Whiskey Dinner, July 18

(subject to change)


Whiskey A vs Whiskey B, neat


Toasts (ricotta-fig and baked pecorino)
paired with
Keystone State (brandy, cherry, stone fruit bitters, Amis Special Reserve rye)
DH Cherry (Cherry Heering, Ramazotti amaro, Danya Blend rye — originally created for Pinefish)


Salad with cider-whiskey dressing
paired with
Friends in Rye Places (house apple shrub, Dad’s Hat barrel-aged maple syrup, lemon, Amis Special Reserve rye)
Brothers in Revolution (Laird’s apple brandy, French hard cider, fresh-juiced apple, Danya Blend rye)


Extruded rye pasta with pancetta; mussels in IPA-ginger beer broth with rye toast
paired with
Hat’s in the House (house ginger beer, orange, Amis Special Reserve rye)
The Hard Truth (Yards IPA, ice cube, Danya Blend rye)


Whiskey cocktail-soaked financier with bergamot-whiskey caramel
paired with
The Process (barrel-aged Carpano Antica, blood orange bitters, Amis Special Reserve rye — per Morgan, just like the Sixers, “the fourth ingredient is time”)
The Local Cooper (orange-infused barrel-finished Bluecoat gin, simple syrup, Danya Blend rye)

Danya Henninger is director and editor of Billy Penn at WHYY, where she oversees the team, all editorial decisions, and all revenue generation — including the membership program. She is a former food...